British thoroughbred breeding industry fragile – report

gb-racing-economic-impactUp to one-third of British thoroughbred breeders are losing money, suggests a new report warning of the critical state of the racing industry.

The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) warns that if the industry were to lose those breeders, the impact across the racing world would be critical.

It declared that the nation’s thoroughbred breeding industry was fragile, and that breeding for jumps racing, called the National Hunt in Britain, was critical.

The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA), which commissioned the report, called on the Government to support the industry.

The Economic Impact Study said the racing industry was in a critical state because of “alarming” and potentially serious issues around the supply base and production of foals.

The breeding industry is estimated to be worth £281 million a year and contributes to supporting 86,000 jobs within racing, many in rural communities.

It was in desperate need of extra investment to support thoroughbred breeders, the report suggested.

The study delivers a worrying picture of the “health” of the industry and identifies key issues and challenges.

In response, the TBA has launched a campaign to work with the Government, the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the British Horseracing Authority to collectively renew efforts to support small breeders who are, in many cases, operating at a loss.

One third of breeders of flat racing horses are “in many cases, losing money”, says the report. If the industry were to lose those breeders the impact across the racing world would be critical.

“This report has confirmed our worst fears,” association chairman Richard Lancaster said.

“It has identified some alarming and potentially critical issues, the most serious of which is the supply base and production of foals, which are vital to fulfill the Great Britain racing fixtures list.

“Any further drop in foal numbers will result in a contraction of the programme and the further marginalisation of racing as a sporting product.”

The report has called to question the idea that the British racing industry is in good health.

Despite seeing packed stands at flagship meetings such as The Derby, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival, the findings suggest that this is “nothing more than an illusion, masking a serious underlying problem and the stark truth is that our industry is in a very fragile state”.

The chairman of the subcommittee for the study, Philip Newton, said: “We need a unified approach to tackle this increasing problem. Bookmakers understandably want a commercial product in terms of the race programme and our role is to help deliver that, which means better support for breeders for both Flat and National Hunt racing.”

The report recognised that Britain hosts 41 per cent of the greatest races in the world. Newton added: “The reality is we need a robust and sustainable supply base and this can only be achieved by all stakeholders working together. Racing used to be the number one betting option and can ill afford any contraction in the fixture list and subsequent loss of revenue opportunities.”

The report said the breeding of jumpers was in a critical state and urgently required “direct intervention”.

In 2013, just 647 jump-bred foals were born in Britain, compared to 2400 in Ireland, as well as a healthy number in France.

National Hunt racing attracts up to 40 per cent of Britain’s annual betting turnover, with the Aintree Grand National the leading race, attracting more than 9 million television viewers in Britain alone.

“The racing programme depends on significant numbers of imports from Ireland and France to fulfill its daily delivery,” Newton said.

“This is neither a healthy, nor sustainable strategy for any industry and urgent steps need to be taken to incentivise and encourage National Hunt breeding in Great Britain.”

Newton said the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association was committed to finding solutions, not just for its members and the rural community – as important as those are – but for the 86,000 people who rely upon racing for their jobs.

“We must remember the simple phrase, ‘no breeders, no horse, no racing’.”

The association already has several schemes and initiatives in place to support breeders, but in addition to this, it will:

  • Investigate options for incentive schemes and direct financial support for National Hunt breeders;
  • Investigate opportunities for primary financial support for British breeders, including an association-led series of fillies-only races, to retain quality fillies in Britain;
  • Commission an independent review into comparative tax regimes in Britain, France and Ireland to facilitate a level taxation playing field;
  • Form a small breeders group to bring forward practical ideas supporting members and breeders;
  • Build on the existing Next Generation Club to attract and introduce young people and promote careers in breeding.


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